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Texas House Puts Politics Ahead of Criminal Justice Reform

AUSTIN- With a vote of 75-38, the Texas House of Representatives failed to reach the two-thirds supermajority needed to send a constitutional amendment on meaningful bail reform (SJR1) to Texas voters.

“For decades, Texas legislators have kept politics out of criminal justice reform,” said Right on Crime Executive Director and former U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman. “The defeat of this constitutional amendment is not the end of the conversation. Texas has an obligation to give judges discretion where there is clear and convincing evidence that denial of bail is necessary to ensure appearance or public safety by violent offenders.”

SJR1 would have allowed Texas judges to deny bail to those accused of violent and sexual offenses listed in Section 11a of the Texas Constitution. The constitutional amendment would have also required judges to use “least restrictive means” when setting bail to prevent low-risk individuals from unnecessarily sitting in jail simply because they cannot afford bail.

“Giving judges the discretion to deny bail to violent criminals is a necessary step to improving the safety of our Texas communities,” said Right on Crime Texas Director Nikki Pressley. “At the same time, placing the least restrictive conditions of bail on low-risk offenders prevents them from sitting in jail just because they don’t have the money for bail. Texas needs to move toward a risk-based pre-trial system. It’s common sense.”

This constitutional amendment passed the Texas Senate with an overwhelming majority four times this year, as well as once through the Texas House during the regular session. As partisan politics escalated in the Texas Legislature over other issues, this constitutional amendment fell prey to the lack of quorum. Gov. Greg Abbott has continued to push for its consideration by adding the matter to special session agendas.

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact Tonya Kerr at 512-300-3767 or tkerr@rightoncrime.com

Right on Crime, a national campaign of Texas Public Policy Foundation, supports conservative solutions for reducing crime, restoring victims, reforming offenders, and lowering taxpayer costs.

Texas Public Policy Foundation is a non-profit free-market research institute based in Austin that aims to foster human flourishing by protecting and promoting liberty, opportunity, and personal responsibility.

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